Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Granny: Jeanette Beck Lacey

The next several posts will be a series about my Coleman and Dwyer ancestors. I'd like to kick it off with a post devoted to my paternal grandmother, Jeanette Mary Beck. It's her maternal line that I'll discuss later in the week.

Jeanette Mary Beck
Jeanette Mary Beck was born December 23, 1925 in Eagle Rock, California, the younger of two daughters born to George Martin Beck and Kathleen Meldon Coleman. She was named for her grandmothers, Jannetje Strijder and Mary Dwyer, but went by the nickname Jeanne.
Jeanette with her elder sister Margaret

Jeanette and Margaret with their mother, Kathleen
She met my grandfather, David Austin Lacey, at Camp Pendleton Marine Base in Oceanside, California. They were both working there at the time. David was the son of Thomas Lacey and Sarah Kilcullen, Irish immigrants. On April 29, 1944, Jeanette and David were married at Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, California. They settled in Fallbrook, California, in an old adobe home surrounded by acres of open land and avocado trees. There, they raised three children, Sharon, Michael and David. Jeanette died on January 7, 2001 in Fallbrook, a grandmother of eleven. She would now be a great-grandmother of ten.
David and Jeanette as newlyweds
Jeanette at her first home with her husband, probably on base at Camp Pendleton
Known to me and my siblings as “Granny,” to some of my cousins as “Grandma,” and at least one of my cousins as “Lovey,” she was a big personality in a little body. Funny, brutally honest, intellectually curious and thoroughly determined and self-sufficient, Granny was one of the most unique and wonderful people I’m sure I’ll ever know. I have so many treasured memories of her that I wouldn’t know where to start in recounting them. When my children are older and I tell them about their great-grandmother, I’ll probably start with the following anecdotes.

Granny contracted polio in 1949, while pregnant with my father, her youngest child. The illness paralyzed her left arm, and she carried it in a sling for the rest of her life. True to Granny’s nature, she went on as though she had no disability, cooking large meals for the extended family in her little kitchen, hand washing all the dishes and carving the Thanksgiving turkey with an electric knife. She never complained. When meeting new people, they would invariably ask her how she’d broken her arm. Sometimes she told them the truth; sometimes she made up a crazy story. Granny was full of humor and crazy stories. Self-pity was not in her makeup.

Her children grown and out of the house, Granny decided that she wanted to travel. She wanted to see The Netherlands, where her father was born, and the rest of Europe, as well. Sadly, my grandfather had developed agoraphobia, which kept him tethered to his home for decades. Did this stop Granny? No way. She recruited friends and family members to go with her, and off she went to see the world. She came back with stories and albums of photos to share. She always encouraged me to have big dreams and go far-flung places, and she set an example by doing that herself.

There are so many more stories, from the non-traditional Christmas dishes, to the bawdy jokes and her subtle endorsement of all kinds of childhood mischief. She was a one-of-a-kind, irrepressible and irreplaceable. One of my very favorite images to conjure up in my head is that of her and my Grandpa standing in their driveway, waving goodbye to us as we drove away after a visit, calling out, “Vaya con Dios” after us. I wish I’d had more years with both of them.
Granny (center) with family on Christmas, 2007

Granny’s father, George Beck, was from Amsterdam. I’ve discussed him a little bit in an earlier post.  Her mother, Kathleen Coleman, was from Melbourne, and it’s her family I’ll be detailing in the next several posts. Let’s just say it’s quite a story.

1 comment:

  1. What an amazing woman! I love the picture of your grandparents as newlyweds. It is so cool to look back on the start of a relationship and know what blessings are to come for the young couple in the picture!